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December 6, 2006

Electrifying Harvin a big part of Gators' run

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Before Urban Meyer started lobbying for his team to play in the national championship game, the Florida coach made a big splash in the spring.

Frustrated with the work ethic and lack of production from his running backs, the second-year coach threatened play without a tailback.

That seemed far-fetched before the incoming signing class arrived on campus in the fall. Thanks to true freshman wide receiver Percy Harvin, Meyer has been able to follow through on that idea.

Harvin - Rivals.com's No. 1 overall recruit in the 2006 class - has been the most productive member of Florida's ground game the last two weeks. He rushed a total of 10 times for 191 yards and two touchdowns against Florida State and Arkansas. Gators running backs had 16 carries for 42 yards and no touchdowns over the same span.

In the 38-28 win over the Razorbacks, Harvin accounted for 167 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns to earn SEC Championship Game MVP honors. It also earned him Rivals.com National Freshman of the Week accolades.

In the conference championship game Harvin ran for a team-leading 105 yards on six carries and caught five passes for 62 yards.

His 37-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter gave Florida a 17-0 lead. In the fourth quarter, Harvin took a handoff on an end-around only to stop abruptly and run in the opposite direction for a 67-yard touchdown run.

"We definitely game planned for him," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "He is very, very difficult to stop because he can catch the football. They run screens with him and they move him back as a running back, a lot like we do with Darren McFadden. It's hard to cover your bases with all the speed on the field, and you've got to do a great job."

The SEC title capped an eventful season for Harvin. The freshman was Florida's most dynamic player, but was limited in the midseason due to an ankle injury. He led Florida in rushing against Florida State with 86 yards before he was carted off the field with a neck injury.

In the end, he proved worthy of his No. 1 ranking.

Like Florida, UCLA is getting big-time results from a new addition.

Looking to improve a defense that ranked at or near the bottom in the Pac-10 in most categories, UCLA hired former Washington Redskins assistant DeWayne Walker to take over the defense.

It became clear what kind of turnaround Walker engineered in 2006 when UCLA knocked USC out of the national championship race with a 13-9 upset. Along the way, the Bruins ended USC's streak of 63 games with at least 20 points - an NCAA-record.

For the defensive performance, Walker earned Rivals.com National Coordinator of the Week honors.

The dismantling of USC, which entered the game averaging 32.3 points per game, began up front. The Bruins applied pressure on Trojans quarterback John David Booty with defensive ends Justin Hickman and Bruce Davis.

Booty was 23 of 39 for 274 yards with an interception. USC star receiver Dwayne Jarrett was limited to four catches for 68 yards.

"We gave them a lot of different looks," Walker said. "If we confused Booty, that would take care of Jarrett."

Also considered for Rivals.com honors this week:

West Virginia redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Brown was 14 of 29 for 244 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the 41-39 triple overtime win over Rutgers. The Mountaineers' win knocked the Scarlet Knights out of a BCS bowl. Brown also ran 17 times for 73 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown run. Brown filled in for Pat White, who missed the game with an ankle injury.

Central Michigan redshirt freshman quarterback Dan LeFevour was 22 of 30 for 314 yards with three touchdowns and an interception in a 31-10 win over Ohio in the MAC Championship Game.

Also in the running for coordinator of the week was Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables, whose team held Nebraska to one touchdown and 366 total yards in a 21-7 win over the Cornhuskers in the Big 12 Championship Game. Nebraska averaged more than 30 points per game for the season but turned the ball over five times - including three interceptions from quarterback Zac Taylor.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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